The Prince Albert Raiders wrapped up their most recent road trip with a win and a loss over the weekend in Western Hockey League action from Alberta’s two largest cities.
On Friday evening, the P.A. club skated to a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Hitmen, and then followed that with a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.
The two games concluded the Raiders’ three-game road trip through British Columbia and Alberta; prior to the Calgary and Edmonton games, the Raiders earned a point in Kootenay in an overtime loss to the Ice on Nov. 29.
On Friday, the Raiders and the Hitmen drew even at 2-2 after forty minutes of play.
It took rookie Justin Nachbaur only 35 seconds of the final period to break it open.
Skating down his team’s left side, the Manitoban carried the puck into Calgary’s right faceoff circle, firing a quick wrist shot past goalie Nick Schneider’s blocker, making it 3-2 for the Raiders. Devon Skoleski assisted.
Teammate Parker Kelly then scored what would be the game-winning goal just over four minutes later: After Schneider rebounded a Vojtech Budik point shot in front of his net, Kelly jumped on the puck and backhanded it underneath the Calgary netminder.
“They found a way to get a win; they ground it out, and you know it was far from spectacular, but they got a win,” head coach Marc Habscheid said of his team.
For Raiders goalie Ian Scott, the game was an important win in front of his friends and family; he was born and grew up in Calgary.
“They don’t get to see me play too often, so to get a win in front of them is even more special,” he said.
The 18-year-old netminder stopped 26 of 29 shots for the win.
Scott now has seven wins and six losses on the year. He sits fifth in the league in goals against average (3.08) and 11th in save percentage (.908).
Cole Fonstad, Max Martin and Sean Montgomery also scored for the Raiders in Calgary.
After the game, Habscheid noted how tired his team was due to the road trip.
“I thought we’ve been away from home for a long time. And I give our kids a lot of credit: We were really tired, we were tired tonight as a group.”
Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2, the Raiders played 14 games, 11 of which were on the road and three were at home. The 11 road games were in Washington, B.C. and Alberta.
In that 32-day stretch, they earned 12 of a possible 28 points, by way of five wins, seven losses, one overtime loss and one shootout loss.
On Saturday, the Oil Kings’ 4-1 win came in part from a two-goal game by Edmonton forward Davis Koch.
After a period and a half of play, Edmonton and Prince Albert kept the game close, with the Oil Kings ahead 2-1.
But it was Koch’s 17:21 backhand goal that chased Scott from the game, prompting Habscheid to change Scott for Curtis Meger in net.
Koch’s insurance goal put his side up 3-1 and put the game out of reach for the Raiders.
“I thought we were just ok. We were a little light on everything. But we gave ourselves plenty of chances,” Habscheid said, referencing several shots that dinged off Edmonton’s goal posts and crossbar.
“The hockey gods tend to even things out.”
He commended his team for its effort. “Our kids are young and resilient. They played well.”
After gaining the two-goal lead, the Oil Kings rode goalie Travis Child to victory in the third period: The Raiders fired 18 shots on the Edmonton netminder; not a single one made it through.
The Oil Kings’ empty net goal at 18:33 sealed it for the home team.
Scott said that it’s never easy to be pulled from a game. But mental resiliency and moving on to the next game is a key to improving and bouncing back in the next game.
Habscheid also pulled Scott in the Raiders’ Nov. 29 Kootenay game.
“Every season you go through hot and cold stretches. The main thing is to bounce back from the cold stretches.”
The Raiders (11-11-4-1) will next play in Swift Current against the Broncos (19-6-2-0) tonight at 7 p.m.
The two East division rivals have split their two games so far: The Raiders won 5-1 at home on Nov. 3, while the Broncos beat P.A. in a shootout on Nov. 24.